Saturday, June 30, 2007

Two Buck Chuck Wins Top Honors

Lola believes this has to be conspiracy, because otherwise it is not explainable by all that is traditional, time tested, expertly crafted and revered. The best-est grape juicy juice must command top dollar, that’s how you know it’s good.

A Blow to Wine Snobs: It isn't exactly David slaying Goliath, but an equally unexpected victory has stunned the California wine industry. The cheapest wine in California just won top honors in one of the top wine competitions. … "Two Buck Chuck" is the nickname for the extremely inexpensive wines sold exclusively in the Trader Joe's chain of grocery stores.

Two Buck Chuck has roiled the domestic wine industry by putting out generally quite decent wines at a price everyone can afford. I have myself been a customer, by the case. … But I never expected to read that Charles Shaw has won the California State Fair's Commercial Wine Competition as the best Chardonnay in California. Yet, that has just happened.

Ok, “a double gold with accolades of Best of California and Best of Class” is awarded for their Chardonnay, so it’s not like barbarian hoards have found a way to produce an outstanding Zinfandel, Barbera or Sangiovese for $50 a case retail. Besides, all opinions from Californians need to be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Friday, June 29, 2007

More Physics Against Globalwarmists

Moonbats – if your belief in dangerous man-made global warming is because someone told you carbon dioxide traps heat, therefore, the more carbon dioxide the more heat, then stop reading now. Individuals interested in the true science may want to read Harvard Physicist Lubos Motl explain how physics demonstrates there is no reason to worry about CO2 superheating the atmosphere.

Saturated confusion: The greenhouse effect is the absorption of thermal, infrared electromagnetic radiation emitted from the surface of Earth by the gases in the troposphere - between the surface and a dozen of kilometers above it. These photons would otherwise escape to outer space and leave the Earth cooler than it is because of their existence.

The absorption only occurs if these relatively low-energy transitions are found in the spectrum of a given molecule: recall that the wavelength of ordinary atomic spectra is typically much shorter and the photons carry much higher energies, corresponding to higher temperatures. The requirement that low-energy transitions must be allowed within the molecule is why the mono-atomic inert gases such as argon or even di-atomic molecules such as nitrogen are not greenhouse gases.

In terms of numbers, we have already completed 40% of the task to double the CO2 concentration from 0.028% to 0.056% in the atmosphere. However, these 40% of the task have already realized about 2/3 of the warming effect attributable to the CO2 doubling. So regardless of the sign and magnitude of the feedback effects, you can see that physics predicts that the greenhouse warming between 2007 and 2100 is predicted to be one half (1/3 over 2/3) of the warming that we have seen between the beginning of industrialization and this year. For example, if the greenhouse warming has been 0.6 Celsius degrees, we will see 0.3 Celsius degrees of extra warming before the carbon dioxide concentration doubles around 2100.

In a nutshell, the amount of “heat” that can be absorbed depends on the amount of heat supplied to the planet, thus the sun is the primary factor for temperature. A few molecules have atomic structures allowing them to TEMPORARILY capture and re-radiate portions of the infrared spectrum, thus slowing the inevitable dissipation of heat to space. Water vapor is by far the most important of these molecules.

If two or more molecules absorb the same wavelength, they all compete for that frequency. As any given wavelength approaches complete atmospheric absorption, adding more molecules produce incrementally smaller effects. In other words, there is a limit to how much heat can be momentarily retained and it depends on how much heat is supplied.

I have used the analogy: Once you mop up the energy the sun spills on the planet each day, having extra paper towels around doesn’t do anything. Lubos uses this analogy: "It's just like when you want your bedroom to be white. You paint it once, twice, thrice. But when you're painting it for the sixteenth time, you may start to realize that the improvement after the sixteenth round is no longer that impressive". We can keep painting the air with carbon dioxide but what we have is pretty much what we are going to get.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bad Law and Power Politics Halted

Filthy rich Herb Kohl manages to completely miss the point of the failure of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill to advance in the U.S. Senate today. Nobody’s Senator (in all likelihood) finds a staffer to put out a press release.

Herb Kohl: I'm disappointed that partisan divide has prevented us from completing our work on the immigration reform bill. We can all agree that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. While the bill certainly was not perfect, it strengthened our border, addressed the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already here, established serious penalties for employers who hire illegal workers, and created a guest worker program. This was our best opportunity to ensure more secure borders and effective enforcement of immigration laws. However, because some of my colleagues were dead-set on stopping any immigration reform, the Senate did not have the opportunity to take an up or down vote on this bipartisan legislation.

First of all, it is insulting to the voters of Wisconsin to cry partisanship in this important issue. This is the information age Mr. Kohl --- lies to the public will be exposed.

The Hill: Thirty-seven Republicans joined 15 Democrats and one independent in voting against ending debate, while 34 Democrats and 12 Republicans wanted to move toward final passage.

Secondly, there is every reason to believe our problems are not from a broken system, but rather from a long standing refusal at every level of government to enforce the existing laws and utilize the available resources. The reality of millions of non-citizens within our borders is primarily the willful disregard for the law by all parties. New rules and expanded bureaucracy will not correct the failures of our entire political leadership.

Now I don’t believe the majority of Americans were emotionally involved or even aware of this legislative conflict. Most people are focused on making their daily lives as good as possible. But I do believe many of the entrenched political elite have had their consciousness raised. This episode should be a warning that they tinker with the value of citizenship at their peril.

For many of us, our country is what is right with the world. American exceptionalism is something we believe, and American citizenship is much more than a certificate of participation at some self esteem conference, with a Dairy Queen two for one medium sundae coupon attached.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Railroading Our Financial Future

Agreement is such a lovely positive word. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announce today that they are in agreement. The official press release pared down to the essence.

Agreement on Regional Transit: (blah, blah, blah) transportation challenges (yadda, yadda, yadda) this is a way out of congestion (chirp, chirp) natural resources (hummm) alternatives to congested roads (harrumph, harrumph) protect the environment (ahhh, ohhh, oooh) governed by a countywide Regional Transit Authority (blather, blather, blather) a ONE-HALF CENT SALES TAX (hem haw hem haw) does not guarantee these improvements will occur (errrrrrr…) RECEIVE FEDERAL FUNDING.

Oh, I get it. No new roads. Rip up old roads and replace them with inflexible fixed rail systems that historically operate at huge losses. Increase the sales tax so that the burden falls upon the least affluent (i.e. non-professors and non-politicians). Collect money upfront in an attempt to lure partial matching contributions of tax dollars raised outside of Dane County. (Hi Waukesha! Hello Appleton!) No guarantee anything ever gets built except for the balances in the government coffers. Tell the public their sacrifice of time and treasure is saving the planet --- for the children.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Real Global Warming

Everyone gets taught that the interior of the planet is really hot - molten rock flowing out of volcanoes - hot. At least one geologist stops looking for oil long enough to contemplate what the superheated inferno below our feet might mean to the land we are standing on.
Earth's inner heat keeps cities afloat: In what they said was the first calculation of its kind, the researchers said heat inside the planet accounts for half the reason land rises above sea level or higher to form mountains. ... "Researchers have failed to appreciate how heat makes rock in the continental crust and upper mantle expand to become less dense and more buoyant," said Derrick Hasterok, a graduate student in geology and geophysics.
Plate tectonics emerges as a theory in the 1960’s to explain the horizontal drift of the earths land masses. This new line of thought may improve our understanding of the planet's surface features by more completely explaining the vertical motions of the crust.
Derrick Hasterok: Causes of Continental Elevation - Elevation of the continents varies widely from below sea level by nearly a kilometer on the continental shelves to the height of Mt. Everest above 9 km. Regional elevation variations can be separated into three separate contributing factors. 1: Variations in composition (density) and crustal thickness. 2: Steady-state thermal expansion due to heat content. And 3: Dynamic elevation resulting from mantle and surface processes and plate tectonics. My work involves quantifying the contributions of each of these factors to the continents.
I have to admit the popular press did grab my interest by sensationalizing the story with the line: “New York would drop to 1,427 feet below the Atlantic ocean, Boston and Miami even deeper. Los Angeles would rest 3,756 feet below the surface of the Pacific ocean”. Some one ask Al Gore if he can use his power to control nature to save our coastal cities from flooding, by simply turning up the heat beneath them.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Physics Field Trip

Maybe it’s just me but I’d be a tad cautious about attending any conference in Iran right now, no matter how long in advance the meeting room has been reserved.

Beloit prof takes top U.S. physics students to Iran: At a time when the international community has heightened sensitivity to the work of Iranian physicists, more than 350 of the brightest young physics minds from 80 countries around the world will gather in Isfahan, Iran, in mid-July to compete in the 2007 International Physics Olympiad.

When they're not competing, students have plenty of time to look around -- with constant supervision. Each international team is assigned an Iranian host who will be responsible for guiding them everywhere from breakfast to touring local museums or mosques. "The fact that we have a female on our team probably means we'll have two hosts, a male and a female, to look after the team," Stanley said. "The students will be expected to follow their hosts like sheep."

Like sheep? I’d be worried my presence would have data distorting quantum effects on their ongoing experiment to measure how much force is needed to crush resistance into inert mass. Networking opportunities are nice and all, but if I was a bright young physicist I’d be teleconferencing this meeting so as not to disrupt my personal observational research at Miller Park.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Health Economics: Service Charges

John Goodman reacts to a Kaiser Foundation study intended to make Health Savings Accounts look bad, and he zeros in on the charges for giving birth. What’s up, Doc?

Having Babies: According to Kaiser, an uncomplicated pregnancy by vaginal delivery costs $9,660 in Maryland. A C-section costs $12,453. If a lot of things go wrong, the cost is $287,453. … Surely the interesting question is not, "What is the patient's share of the bill?" but rather, "Why is the bill so high in the first place?"

Let's see, women have been having babies for how long? 100,000 years? Perhaps more than a million years, if you stretch the definition of humanoid. After all that time, folks in Maryland have not figured out how to deliver a baby for less than the price of a new car?

The real lesson to be learned here is one that completely eludes the Kaiser policy wonks. If all Maryland women were managing their own maternity care dollars, most Maryland hospitals would go out of business in a flash.

TCS Daily contributing editor Arnold Kling makes the case that the expense of American health care is a natural result of a few underlying beliefs. Simply put, those in need should not be denied for financial reasons and those who provide deserve to be affluent.

Reforming Our Beliefs Concerning Health Care: As it stands today, our health care system is designed to ensure that cost-benefit analysis is not taken into account. Instead, the collectivist instinct is that individuals should be insulated from having to pay for medical procedures. This belief that medical care ought to be free to the consumer is what underlies our peculiar institution of health insurance that is more like a prepaid health plan than real insurance. Because consumers are insulated from cost, neither they nor doctors are in the habit of comparing costs and benefits when it comes to medical procedures.

Even though we believe that medical care should be free for those who receive it, we realize that health care providers need to be paid for their services. In fact, another one of our bedrock beliefs about health care is that doctors deserve high status and wealth. I sometimes think of our health care system as a suction device for drawing money into the pockets of physicians. That is, many of our institutions and practices seem designed more to guarantee an affluent lifestyle for doctors than a high-quality outcome for patients. There is nothing wrong with someone earning a living based on their skills. However, the regulatory environment tends to give doctors more than a market rate of return.

I have no problem when providers with exceptional skills earn top dollar but the system in place pretty much guarantees each and every provider makes top dollar on inflated service charges. If the goal is affordability, then the focus needs to be on the fees being demanded.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Picnic Blues

Blues music is primarily a "live" art form,” so seven state bands get together in Warner Park to play. Los Angles native and current Madison resident Bobby Bryan and his Original Downtown Players close out a lovely cloudy blue sky summer evening, at the 5th annual Madison Blue’s Society Picnic. The band is the Wisconsin selection to compete in the upcoming International Blues Competition in Memphis next January.

Isthmus: The Madison Blues Society’s annual Blues Picnic has always been a fund-raiser for the organization. But society president Catherine DeValk says the free event hasn’t always raised much in the way of funds. … “This year we’re living within our budget,” DeValk says.

Even as he goes on record supporting the blues, living within a budget is a lesson lost on Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. His profligate obsession with spending Madison in to decades of debt for misguided rail based infrastructure will leave generations of Madisonians with sorrows to sing.

People in the Kenosha area should take advantage of any opportunity of see Living Will perform. When Tom and Joel get their guitars amped up Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix start smiling. Sweet easy summertime living.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Limit On Public Unions

Little noticed in the background behind the legislative fiascos in DC, the United States Supreme Court announces a unanimous decision supporting the constitutionality of Washington State giving public employees a way to say NO to government unions. From the majority opinion:

“It is undeniably unusual for a government agency to give a private entity the power, in essence, to tax government employees. …We hold that it does not violate the First Amendment for a State to require that its public-sector unions receive affirmative authorization from a nonmember before spending that nonmember’s agency fees for election-related purposes.”

In other words, there are limits to the extent unions can demand and spend money from public employees. More importantly, it gives legislators a firm starting point from which to craft restrictions on the control of unions over our government. Thank you Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Good work.

What does our victory mean and what happens next? This is an important victory for the First Amendment rights of public-sector workers, particularly those who have refused to join a union. Here’s what the case means right now: 1) it is constitutional to require unions to ask first; 2) any state legislature can adopt similar laws or even go beyond Washington’s law; and 3) ask-first-type laws that already exist in other states will be protected; 4) the Washington Education Association will be held accountable for its past violations.

This case has significant national impact, not only because of the actual language of the ruling, but because of the 9-0 decision. Regardless of who holds the political reins over the next decade, a 9-0 decision is unlikely to be overturned. It forms the launching pad for state legislatures to move more aggressively, if they choose.

If they choose. The public sector unions understand this threat to their power over the tax dollar economy and waste no time scurrying back to the legislature to defend their turf.

The Olympian: While on the losing end of the unanimous verdict, the teachers union might have the last laugh. Knowing that they likely would be crushed by the justices, teachers went to their Democratic friends in the governor’s mansion and Legislature earlier this year and passed a new law (House Bill 2079) that repealed the permission clause.

So the Supreme Court points out the pathway we can take to wrest back control of our public servants but resistance will be fierce and well financed. It is going to be a long tunnel back to citizen control of government.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

American Healthcare History

David Gratzer is a physician proponent of free market solutions to the problem of healthcare expense. The perceived crisis in American medicine is not quality of service but rather affordability of care. This “money” problem develops from prior decisions trying to out think the market. “American health care has been shaped by two days: October 26, 1943 and December 1, 1942.”

What's Wrong With American Health Care? On October 26, 1943, the IRS ruled that employers could continue to pay health insurance premiums in pre-tax dollars. As a response to wage and price controls, employers had begun to offer health benefits to attract better employees. The IRS ruling legitimized and encouraged the practice, giving rise to the dominance of employer-sponsored health insurance.

On December 1, 1942, Lord Beveridge issued his report on health care and pensions to the British Parliament, envisioning zero-dollar public health insurance. Lord Beveridge had enormous influence here, particular among Democrats; his thinking (and persuasiveness) helped lay the intellectual foundation for Medicare and Medicaid.

Fast forward 60 years, and the end result of these two days is that Americans - whether privately insured or publicly covered - tend to be over-insured, and thus less sensitive to prices. And so we come to a paradox: American health care is so expensive because it's so cheap.

So now the challenge is to hold strong against the forces proposing to address the economic failure of over-insurance with expanded universal insurance. Lord Beveridge (1879-1963) was an intellectual civil servant who as a young man earns the enmity of the labor unions during WWI, yet eventually becomes the father of the modern welfare state in the years after WWII.

Social Insurance and Allied Services was published in December 1942 and outlined a vision of society’s battle against the five giants, idleness, ignorance, disease, squalor and want. The report proposed a system of cash benefits, financed by equal contributions from the worker, the employer and the state, together with a public assistance safety-net. Underlying this system were three assumptions, all necessary, Beveridge argued, for the abolition of want: a national health service available to all, tax-financed family allowances and a commitment to state action to reduce unemployment.

The comparative level of, ignorance, disease, squalor and want between the present and the recent past is remarkable. How often do Americans speak of tatterdemalion? Idleness gives way to leisure time as the economy keeps most people busy. As Dr. Gratzer points out: “In most other sectors of the economy, costs fall with advancements in technology”, so the affordability problem can be improved by moving back towards market established pricing. The big impediment, however, remains the lure of “tax-financed family allowances”.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Heads UP – Pay Attention

The QandO reacts to Kimberly Strassel’s Opinion Journal column last Friday on the deceitfully titled Energy Bill coming up in Congress. I agree completely.

Global Warming and your property: There is an imminent and building threat to your private property. No, that's not the way to state it. There is an imminent and growing threat to all private property. And it is to be found in the Democratic Party as it continues its steady march to the extreme left.

The environmentalists desire complete overarching political control of every inch of land and every living thing. They won’t get everything they desire immediately, but unless their "Save the Planet" propaganda is exposed and refuted, the incremental and detrimental erosion of our classic liberties will continue. Kimberly Strassel explains the potential of the drafted legislation.

Green Goodies: Broadly, the bill fulfills one big ambition of environmental groups in recent years: a rollback of any smarter use of public (or even private) lands for energy use. Gone are previous gains for more drilling, more refineries, more transmission lines. But the big prize was an unprecedented new power allowing green groups to micromanage U.S. lands. That section creates "a new national policy on wildlife and global warming." It would require the Secretary of the Interior to "assist" species in adapting to global warming, as well as "protect, acquire and restore habitat" that is "vulnerable" to climate change. This is the Endangered Species Act on steroids. At least under today's (albeit dysfunctional) species act, outside groups must provide evidence a species is dwindling in order for the government to step in. This law would have no such requirements. Since green groups will argue that every species is vulnerable to climate change, the government will be obliged to manage every acre containing a bird, bee or flower.

It's a green dream come true, carte blanche to promulgate endless regulations barring tree-cutting, house-building, water-damming, snowmobile-riding, waterskiing, garden-planting, or any other human activity. The section is vague ("protect," "assist," "restore") precisely so as to leave the door open to practically anything. In theory, your friendly Fish & Wildlife representative could even command you to start applying sunblock to your resident chipmunks' noses.

The environment is fine. The Earth does not need saving. The biosphere is ever changing and adapts quite well. Nature does not require human maintenance to thrive. Believe it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sergei Borisovich Ivanov

Who? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The Dossier on Putin's Clone: A FORMER KGB spy who studied in London, became a lifelong fan of the Beatles and speaks fluent English is being tipped to succeed Vladimir Putin as president of Russia.

He shares Putin’s mistrust of the West and anger at NATO expansion, and is a strong opponent of US plans to install a missile defence shield in Europe. As defence minister, Ivanov drastically increased military spending but opposed army reforms. … “Russia’s next president may turn out to be someone who is not even on our radar, but if Ivanov comes to power, those who are criticizing Putin now may come to miss him,” said a western diplomat. “Behind the worldly facade is a steely hawk - a replica of Putin without the charisma.”

Power is always about getting the desired outcome. Principles have nothing to do with the desire to control for personal gain. Oh by the way, the United States has only one operating uranium enrichment facility so the atomic future is still mostly fueled by seasoned apparatchiks.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Refresher Course About the Left

Are “ordinary oppressed Americansin a deep psychological state of self-delusion” or “simply successfully druggedwith a plethora of pleasure-producing distractions”? If you doubt that committed leftists hold the general public in contempt, former UW Madison Professor Joel S. Hirschhorn conveniently puts it all in writing.

Americans unready to revolt, despite revolting conditions: The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll results vividly show a population incredibly dissatisfied with their nation’s political system. In other countries in other times such a depressing level of confidence in government would send a signal to those running the government that a major upheaval is imminent. But not here in the USA.

I have long asserted that Americans live in a delusional democracy with delusional prosperity and these and loads of other data support this view. There is a super wealthy and politically powerful Upper Class that is literally raping the nation. Meanwhile, the huge Lower Class continues to lose economic ground while their elected representatives sell them out to benefit the Upper Class. Yet no rational person thinks that a large fraction of the population is ready to rise up in revolt against the evil status quo political-economic system that so clearly is not serving the interests of the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Part of the genius of our contemporary ruling class elites is that they have engineered a state of political and economic oppression that paradoxically is still embraced by the Lower Class. The rational way to understand this is that ordinary, oppressed Americans are in a deep psychological state of self-delusion. Despite all the empirical, objective evidence of a failed government, they fail to see rebellion opportunities. Many still believe they live in the world’s best democracy. But across all elections considerably less than half the citizens even bother to vote anymore.

Why is there insufficient pain for revolution? This is a deadly serious issue. What is historically unique about America is that even the most oppressed and unfairly treated people are distracted by affordable materialism, entertainment, sports, gambling, and myriad other aspects of our frivolous, self-absorbed culture. Even failed school and health care systems do not drive people, paying enormous sums to fill up their SUVs, to rebellion. So, Americans are aware of their oppression, but the power elites have successfully drugged them with a plethora of pleasure-producing distractions sufficient to keep them under control.

Cliff Notes Version: Americans keep using their freedom to go to work in order to buy gasoline for their personal transportation devices. They are simply insufficiently distressed to understand the economy does not benefit them, the healthcare system does not serve them and the ever expanding variety of entertainment is a trick to keep them amused. If people were smart, they would realize the magnitude of their oppression and revolt. Stupid affordable materialism.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Polls Blow French Parliament Vote

Did anyone believe the French left would wise up and stop fighting for power? There are a lot of people invested in the welfare state and they are not going to let even common sense adjustments go unchallenged. Sarkozy will have a majority to work with but the leftists are gaining Parliamentary seats following elections today.

Sarkozy's parliamentary majority smaller than expected: Official results Monday morning gave French President Nicolas Sarkozy a majority in the parliamentary election run-off, but it was not as large as he had hoped for or polls had predicted. … The results are no-doubt disappointing for Sarkozy, as they represent a net loss of about 44 seats for the UMP compared to the number the party held in the outgoing National Assembly. In addition, the opposition Socialist Party gained 36 seats, to 185.

The new French President will retain about a 100 seat majority and intends to proceed with his tax cut plan which motivated the socialist base to turn out in mass this election. French expatriate Daniel at Venezuela News and Views agrees the handling of the tax issue backfired on Sarkozy's party.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory: The reason is quite simple. When the new Fillon cabinet was named a month ago it started by a program of tax incentives that, no matter how the UMP tried to hide it, favored folks who already had some money. The idea was of course to try to promote more investment in France and boost the economy growth. It did work in some countries and it certainly was worth trying in France which seemed blocked for years.

The problem is that such a loss of income must be compensated from somewhere, even more so in a welfare state of the size of France. The right had no better idea than to leak a possible increase in sales tax, and clumsily labeling it "social sales tax".

The right wing bungling a message delivered to the public. Another failure to understand how voters react to words and phrases. What a shock.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Lieberman Ripple

It is a beautiful afternoon, Madison is a beautiful city and the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood is one of our archetypical communities. For a number of years the neighborhood association schedules a Jazz In The Park day and so Lola and I decide to spend the late afternoon with some live music on the edge of Lake Wingra.

This near west side area is a Democrat enclave and I would not be surprised if Party membership is a deed restriction. These are the people who have kept Fred Risser in state government since 1956. Back in 1881 former Governor Washburn donates his Edgewood estate to the Dominican Sisters to provide Catholic educations. In 1945, in the aftermath of WWII, a number of Jewish settlers move to the area eventually founding Temple Beth El. Over time, non-judgmental community empowerment sets deep roots in the marsh lands.

This year, merely meters away from the Synagogue, clusters of citizens are proudly wearing their “Hands Off Iran” buttons. Then in the public remembrance of the late union activist and festival founder is a plea for the community to cherish the ideals of the ancient Greek city-states, where citizens debate and decide on the issues of war and peace. The thought crosses my mind that perhaps a Lieberman ripple is passing through Madison.

Then observing the men and women associating freely in shorts and summer wear, enjoying cold bottles of beer and sparkling wines, listening to music and playing with dogs, it strikes me that this glorious afternoon would absolutely be prohibited in Iran. Of course, we have our community and those far away Persians have their own cultural ways that should be respected. Besides, the park signs warn the serious approaching danger is foreign mollusks.

Friday, June 15, 2007

$1.2 Billion Gambles

This afternoon a few of us were talking about how Wisconsin really, really, really wants Madison to become a biotechnology center. It’s all about money and jobs for the bodies expected to fill up the expensive unsold downtown condos. The financial success of Silicon Valley simply captivates the urban planners.

The problem is that a good tech idea can be prototyped, tested and start generating earnings and creating jobs in a short period of time. An incubator biotech economy isn’t going to produce gangbuster employment growth for anyone outside of a couple PhD’s fortunate enough to land some venture capital millions, their clutch of graduate students and their contract janitorial service. Our civil servants are increasingly making it nearly impossible to bring anything new to the market.

Drug Regulation: Has the Worst Become the Norm? A sad litany of new examples suggests the FDA has lost its ability to reason about risk.

In spite of increasingly more powerful and precise technologies for drug discovery, purification and production during the past twenty years, development costs have skyrocketed. According to the latest data (2006) from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, on average it takes more than eight years and costs $1.2 billion to develop a biopharmaceutical. Of this amount, capitalized out-of-pocket preclinical costs are approximately $615 million, while clinical testing accounts for $626 million.

Why the huge costs and lengthy development times, which exceed even those for conventional drugs? Regulatory excesses, for the most part. Regulators are inflexible and inconsistent and keep raising the bar for approval, especially for innovative, high-tech products.

The legacy of the trial lawyers is the innovation process slowed and market economics distorted because the bureaucrats responsible for assuring that medicine for public sale actually works, are totally oriented towards covering their ass lest they sign off on anything with unforeseen risks. Tinkering with the process of life is inherently risky and the pursuit of risk free perfection is unobtainable and thus misguided. Golden egg, goose, slaughter house, oh well.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Sinking Feeling In Venezuela

No country on Earth has spent more money on military hardware the last two years than Venezuela. Now Hugo Chavez decides he needs a submarine fleet.

Russia plans to sell submarines to Venezuela: Russia is planning to sell at least five diesel submarines to Venezuela, a newspaper reported Thursday — a deal that would be certain to anger Washington and further strain already chilly U.S.-Russian relations. … Russia earlier supplied five similar submarines to China under a contract estimated to be worth US$1.8 billion. Moscow has also angered the United States by selling weapons to Syria and Iran.

Oh well, nothing can hurt us, we are the United States. H/T Publius Pundit

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Bad Day Under Muslim Rule

In 1943 United States Military are stationed in Iraq as part of the WWII effort to defeat Hitler. The War Department provides the soldiers a pamphlet about how to behave with regards to the Iraqis. A pdf version of the old document has surfaced and is good reading. Some squashed together excerpts via Murmurs of Earth.

A Short Guide to Iraq: NEVER discuss religion or politics or women with Moslems. Don't stare at anyone. Remember the fear of the "evil eye". Knock before entering a private house. If a woman answers, wait until she has had time to retire. If you see grown men walking hand in hand, ignore it. They are not queer. You can usually tell a mosque by its high tower. Keep away from mosques. [Emphasis in the original] If you try to enter one, you will be thrown out, probably with a severe beating. There are four towns in Iraq which are particularly sacred to the Iraq Moslems: Kerbala, Najaf, Samarra, and Kadhiman. Unless you are ordered to these towns it is advisable to stay away from them. Moslems here are divided into two factions something like our division into Catholic and Protestant denominations -- so don't put in your two cents when Iraqis argue about religion. There are also political differences in Iraq that have puzzled diplomats and statesmen. You won't help matters any by getting mixed up in them.

Those religious and political differences are going to flare up as someone manages to once again set off explosives inside the extremely sacred Askariya Shiite shrine in Samarra. It was the February 22, 2006 destruction of the golden dome that inflamed the ongoing Shia retaliation violence. Some group really wants to keep the violence level high.

Captain Ed reviews how Hamas succeeds with their gangster style assassinations of anyone in the Palestinian Authority standing in their way of complete control. Good bye Gaza Strip. A “terrorist protostate on the Mediterranean” is now a reality and it will require Israel to confront it.

Finally, Jeffrey Harrell reviews the situation in Darfur, Sudan and concludes the expanded economic sanctions the White House announces today will be ineffective because “after decades of non-stop war, Sudan basically has no economy.” And it is worse than that.

Now Is Not The Time: Here’s the harsh truth: We cannot stop the fighting in Sudan. We can’t do it. There’s just no way. The roots of the fighting go back too far. There are too many players. We don’t have any tactics, either diplomatic or military, for imposing order on a state of pure anarchy.

The 21st Century Muslim Armageddon retains its momentum. Now back to Paris Hilton.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Reactions to the Algore Ministries

When Alexander Cockburn achieves his vision of a socialist overthrow of capitalism, I know I will eventually end up in the re-education camps. Still, it is lovely to see someone in the intellectual vanguard of collectivism continue to denounce global warming as fantasy based wishful thinking.

Dissidents Against Dogma: We should never be more vigilant than at the moment a new dogma is being installed. The claque endorsing what is now dignified as "the mainstream theory" of global warming stretches all the way from radical greens through Al Gore to George W. Bush, who signed on at the end of May. The left has been swept along, entranced by the allure of weather as revolutionary agent, naïvely conceiving of global warming as a crisis that will force radical social changes on capitalism by the weight of the global emergency. Amid the collapse of genuinely radical politics, they have seen it as the alarm clock prompting a new Great New Spiritual Awakening.

Rational radical that he is, Cockburn then proceeds to review some of the abundant factual evidence refuting the alarmism of the baking to death propagandists. I wonder how much of his motivation is concern that complete repudiation of this power grab tactic will set back the desired capture of western democracies, and how much is personal contempt at the stupidity of movement leader Al Gore.

Gore's Antarctic Sellout Crowd: 17 Freezing Scientists: According to Linda Capper, representative for the British Antarctic Survey, the Antarctic leg of the Live Earth Show will not be a “Major Concert” as Al Gore once promised. In fact according to Linda: "We have a house band--five of our science team. They are very good indie rock-folk fusion.”

The Rothera Research Station is under British jurisdiction, and home to only 22 winter residents. July 7th is mid winter down there and it is completely inaccessible by plane or boat. But that didn’t deter the Oscar winning star of An Inconvenient Truth. Back in February, Gore’s office contacted the BAS requesting a flight into Rothera. They questioned Linda “about the possibility to fly an artiste [no-one specific] into to the research station in July.” When Al Gore was informed that July is winter in Antarctica, and completely inaccessible, Linda Capper suggested letting the scientists play.

Antarctica has winter in July? That’s not how it’s done in Tennessee and Washington. I wonder if Algore assumed the indigenous population of the continent would all show up for a celebrity performance. --- H/T Vicki McKenna and Dust My Broom

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Whole Political Class can be Wrong

Since the Democrats are going to hold up FDR like a shiny icon for the masses to revere, those of us in opposition to increasing state control of our lives should shine the light of truth on the original new dealer. The mass suffering of the great depression is primarily the result of bad political decisions. Arnold Kling writing at TCS Daily turns on the spotlight.

What Roosevelt Didn't Know: Still, most of the ignorance that plagued policymakers during the 1930's was conceptual. They did not understand the difference between lost resources and under-utilized resources. They did not understand the relationship between financial markets and markets for goods and services. And they did not understand the issue of deflation.

It seems to me that economists could have seen that the prosperity of the 1920's was not false. They could have portrayed a return to that level of production as a reasonable goal, not an impossible dream. They could have distinguished between the ups and downs of stock prices in the asset market and the productive capacity in the goods market.

A great many in the political leadership of the 1930's assume the prosperity of the preceding years is unsustainable. A prosperity so widespread that every individual has opportunities to achieve a better life surely, they thought, must be fated to end. When the troubles hit, instead of acting to reestablish the economy, the political class develops compassionate ways to help mitigate the transition of the masses back to the normalcy of the hard life.

The unsustainable wealth of modern life is again a conviction with broad following in the governments of the western democracies. If it was an ignorance of economics forcing the great depression upon the population, it will be the ignorance of science that will erode away the good life our progressive liberty creates.

Power Shifts: In short: if you are thinking global warming is both man-made and a disaster, start investing in stomach remedies, because you'll have a lot of indigestion and not much else in the coming decades. What dots did I connect to arrive at that statement? Simply this: every drop of oil in the world is going to get burned. If not by us, then by someone else. That's reality, get used to it.

Get ready to start hearing names like Gazprom (Russia), Pemex (Mexico), Petrobras (Brazil), Petronas (Kuala Lumpur), CNPC/PetroChina/CNOOC (China), PDVSA (Venezuela), Saudi Aramco, and yes, Iran's NIOC. You'll notice that a good many of these companies are in places that aren't friendly to freedom and private enterprise.

There is no reason to fear the use of energy and every reason to fear any politician claiming we need to scale back our lives. Even if the second law of thermodynamics suddenly ceases to work, enabling every scary bad thing that can be computer animated to come to pass in the real world, any self induced suffering won’t matter because the oil economy is beyond our control.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

DPPRK - PRC And Dollars

Last February, North Korea agreed to shut down it’s one and only nuclear reactor but it never really happened. News today is that the DPPRK reactor resumes operations in Yongbyon after a few days of “maintenance” downtime. The problem in Dear Leader’s mind is that millions of dollars in North Korean funds are still effectively frozen at Macau based Banco Delta Asia (BDA). The monies were sequestered as suspected gains from illegal activity and the United States is expressing concerns the NORKs may have recidivist tendencies.

North Korea's Frozen Funds: BDA is "complicated" for the State Department for the reason that it does not have the legal power to end the bank's blacklisting. The Treasury Department has that power. The blacklisting of BDA came about through Treasury's imposition of a regulation following a period of public notice and comment that set the table for an 18-month US government investigation of the Macau bank, whose results remain secret. If that regulation were lifted, DPRK funds on deposit at BDA or any other bank could once again circulate freely through the global banking system. More importantly, the Six Party process that has ground to a halt over the BDA issue could resume and contribute toward the easing of tensions in Northeast Asia. Treasury, however, remains unwilling to withdraw the regulation.

Diplomacy has ground to a halt as Kim Jong-Il insists on getting his money before agreeing to play nice with the rest of world. Meanwhile South Korea continues to withhold food aid to the NORKs until the nuclear weapon program goes away. Yet in the larger picture, the real diplomacy action may be reminding the Chinese that our economies are extensively intertwined and behaviors causing problems with our finances can also be unhealthy for theirs. Consider this tidbit from the prior source.

David Asher, once the State Department's point man on North Korea (now with the Heritage Foundation), has made the revealing admission that BDA "had never been the main offender in Macao." Despite "voluminous" evidence of money laundering at other Macau banks, BDA was blacklisted because it was "an easy target in the sense that it was not so large that its failure would bring down the financial system." He stated that "Banco Delta may be a sacrificial lamb in some people's minds, but it is not about Banco Delta." The real target, Asher said, was several larger Chinese banks committing financial crimes in collusion with the DPRK.

The frustrating thing about diplomacy is there is no end point because goals continually change. I suppose that makes for really good permanent employment opportunities. But still, someone needs to just insist that all money laundering and atomic bomb building will stop March 31, 2008, so America can get back to expanding our a national healthcare bureaucracy.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Obama On Foreign Affairs

I still have no idea why Barack Obama is in the mix to lead this country. I suppose the shallow depth of my understanding comes in large part from my complete disinterest in a person who strikes me as a mouthpiece puppet for Democratic money interests. Still, since the inexperienced junior Senator from Illinois has been selected to convey the thinking of a large faction of a national party, it is worth looking at the words the candidate commits to record.

In the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs Senator Obama writes at length about the relationship of the United States and the rest of the world. What comes through the usual denial about the role Iraq plays in our defense against Islamic Jihadists, is the belief that American power is “in terminal decline”.

Common Security for our Common Humanity: This century's threats are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy. They come from weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.

You read that correctly, the source of suicidal mass murder is “alienation or perceived injustice”. The date of our military defeat in Iraq is penciled in for March 31, 2008 -- at which point more time and resources will be freed up for trying to control the weather. Oh yeah, “we should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran” to show “what could be gained from fundamental change: economic engagement, security assurances, and diplomatic relations.” Presidential aspirant Obama seems to believe the problem is that the United States is too harsh and demanding with the Mullahs.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Viet Nam and Iraq

As a personal policy, I won’t link to the New York Times, but Rick Moran writing at the American Thinker has the link to one editorial worth reading. I am not shocked but I am surprised the left’s paper of record publishes this editorial by Peter Rodman and William Shawcross. “The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid. We beg to differ.” The authors then recount how millions suffer the victory of authoritarian rule.

I take this as a sign the Democrats believe they are on the verge of complete control of the United States government, and the responsible adults in the party are suddenly sobering up enough to realize victory means having to deal with an international reality infected with hatred and violence, resources and willpower. All actions have consequences and the collectivist movement will rightfully be assigned credit or blame as events play out in the religion of Islam while they govern America. Rick reacts to the editorial.

The Right Lessons To Learn From Viet Nam: Our war policies have been flawed from the get go and until recently, nothing we tried seemed to stem the violence in Iraq and indeed, made it worse in some respects. But there is a huge difference between mistakes made in planning and policy and the cold, calculated effort by the left to work to crush the morale of the American people so that they could use the Iraq War to vault back into power.

But if the left is trying to convince us that their withering criticisms of the justification for the war, its subsequent prosecution, and all the ancillary issues that have arisen because of it as well as vicious personal attacks on the President were only for the purpose of improving our policies so that we could achieve victory, only little children who still believe in Santa Claus take them at their word. Therefore, one must conclude that their stated reasons for wishing an American defeat in Iraq – that we “deserve” it or that it would teach us a lesson in “humility” – are a true reflection of their beliefs and thinking.

The message of Islam is that submission to authority brings peace. The message of America is that consent of governed brings widespread prosperity. The resolution of the conflicts between these concepts will be worked out over time. Only the volume of blood loss and the count of the corpses remain undetermined.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Immigration and Citizenship

So Lola and I are watching the 1976 film "Bound for Glory" on the tube. Two hours into the movie as David Carradine muddles through his portrayal of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie and as he attempts the fourth scene of being angry with the injustice of the farm workers plight, the thought crosses my mind, that from this awkward lashing out eventually emerges the Bill which must be killed.

There is no doubt there are moneyed interests intent on preserving cheap labor for the existing orchards and the coming deforestation diesel plantations. Furthermore, I fully support the right of workers to sell their labor, in a marketplace constrained by a rule of law protecting all parties in the transaction. It is this rule of law, above all, that is weakened by those who would simply say that past actions are completely forgivable and the status quo enforcement of the law needs no improvement.

The immigration issue, for me, comes down to the necessity of citizenship to retain its value. Ideals are just that – the imaginary perfections which orient our actions in the dynamic chaos of an infinitely complex world. So the ideal I choose to work towards is a government subordinate to the desires of the citizens, rather than a government ruling the resident population for the benefits of the powerful. Individuals who want to be more than transients, who want to be American citizens, need to understand and demonstrate they accept this ideal.

There is talk that every individual wanting to be President in 2008 should be put in one room for one debate. I like the idea, but with one caveat. The ONLY question in the debate is why the United States of America is the best country in the world. Then let the citizens select the winner.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bullet Proof Deer

This could really play havoc with the entire concept of the CWD eradication zone.

Blue Crab Boulevard: We humans are in serious trouble this morning as word comes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania of the newest weapon that the Animal Uprising™ has unleashed. More terrifying than the taser-proof porcine berserker; more horrifying than cannibal cattle; even less appealing than tranquilizer-proof donkeys: They have unleashed the bullet-proof deer.

The journey from Lancaster, PA to Lancaster, WI is not all that far. A couple projectile resistant bucks wired on meth from some deep woods lab could probably make the trip in four days. The DNR always feared this day was coming.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Inside Madison Stuff

I am so voting for Judy Compton if she decides to run for Mayor of Madison. I can not adequately recreate the impeccable logic with which she demonstrates to the Madison City Council, how the proposal to create “Neighborhood Conservation Districts” opens the door for city politicians to define the specific area of Madison to become the red light district. Allowing majority political will to supersede individual property rights under the guise of preserving architectural aesthetics is a bad, bad, bad idea.

Judy demurs she is too old to grab the pom-poms and do the "I told you so dance". Well I have been to Wisconsin roadhouse polka band nights and ain’t nobody to old to sashay across a hardwood floor, Ms. Alderperson. Once you establish architect police authority, the municipal house paint and vinyl siding approval sub-committee is not far behind.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Questioning Affirmative Action

State Senator Glenn Grothman pokes the wasp nest (if this is the appropriate metaphor) that is Affirmative Action politics, and is quickly met with the menacing buzz of aroused bureaucrats. Madison’s blog darling covers the basic points while commenters meander through arguments on both side of the racial preference debate.

Althouse: I understand Grothman's point that diversity-based admissions ought to connect to some real diversity that the student will bring to the classroom. But isn't his solution worse than the problem he cites? We're going to ask students to prove what percent of a race they are? That's really ugly, worse than abolishing affirmative action altogether I would think.

I believe Grothman’s point is that if government is going to offer preferential benefits then there are going to be claimants with marginal qualifications. Does anyone truly believe regulations concluding Tiger Woods merits special assistance over and above the majority of the population don’t need tweaking? Of course, the special interest groups fall back to their dogma.

David Giroux, a spokesman for the UW System, said there was a "compelling need for diversity" in public universities and that it would be a shame for the Legislature to move against affirmative action, which he described as a "divisive issue." "Diversity benefits all students, improving the quality of their education and their prospects for career success," he said.

As discussed in the comment section, the cliché about the educational benefits of “diversity” is wearing a little thin. Where exactly is the evidence demonstrating that a cultural mixture produces better anything? The most diverse industry in America is entertainment and between Brittany shaving her head, Lindsay crashing her car and Paris negotiating for the top bunk in lock down, I simply fail to see the knowledge multiplier effect.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

One Voice of Reason at NASA

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has probably made a career ending mistake.

Houston Chronicle: "First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown," he said.

"And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

NASA's chief climate scientist and screaming Chicken Little moonbat James Hansen is nearly apoplectic that someone within the sacred halls of NASA would question both the limitations of mans power over nature and the limitations of human judgment about the optimal conditions for life on Earth. Dr. Hansen is a classic case of someone so in love with his self-perceived wisdom that anyone pointing out reasoning flaws is perceived as making a personal attack. Hansen strikes me as an uber-math nerd from Iowa for whom running numbers through computers came to be more real than empirical evidence.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hostages: A Cultural Tradition

After the Iranian regime seizes British sailors last March the adverse consequences are pretty much non-existent. Hostage taking by Muslims is fairly common today as Islamic activists emulate and honor their cultural history. Aside from the Israelis, all other nations continue making concerted efforts to keep their responses “proportionate”.

Right Wing Nut House: You may have heard about the 3 Iranian Americans kidnapped by the gangsters currently in charge in Tehran. Then again, you may not have heard about it. Our media apparently now views hostage taking by the Persians so routine that it’s not even worth reporting on.

Michael Ledeen at Nation Review Online says there are now five individuals with American citizenship being held by various groups in Iran. The hostages serve as symbolic trophies for various factions of the theocracy as they maneuver for greater power. The United States responds to these provocations by updating a travel advisory.

May 31, 2007: Some elements of the Iranian regime and the population remain hostile to the United States. As a result, American citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling or residing in Iran. Recently, Iranian authorities have prevented a number of Iranian-American citizen academics, journalists, and others who traveled to Iran for personal reasons from leaving, and in some cases have detained and imprisoned them on various charges, including espionage and being threat to the regime. Americans of Iranian origin should consider the risk of being targeted by authorities before planning travel to Iran. Iranian authorities may deny dual nationals access to the United States Interests Section in Tehran, because they are considered to be solely Iranian citizens.

The Iranian Government does not recognize dual citizenship and generally does not permit the Swiss to provide protective services for U.S. citizens who are also Iranian nationals. In addition, U.S. citizens of Iranian origin who are considered by Iran to be Iranian citizens have been detained and harassed by Iranian authorities. Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and prosecution.

The government of the United States of America wants to remind you that “some elements of the Iranian regime” … “remain hostile to the United States”. I suppose there is a logical consistency in the lack of alarm as Iran refuses to honor US citizenship. It’s not like US citizenship is anything meaningful to the Bush Administration. Oh by the way, in Iran they are willing to execute you for religious indiscretions like marrying a Jew.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Divestment NOW

The Wisconsin Democrats are advancing a plan to create a 2.5% tax on oil companies as the proposal survives a split party line vote in the budget writing committee. The Democrats reason oil needs to be taxed because gasoline prices are going up.

Governor Jim Doyle: “Big oil companies have been reaping huge profits on the backs of middle class families for years – reaching record profits while families across the country struggle to afford to fill up their gas tanks.

“It’s time for big oil companies to stop driving up gas prices. With no major geo-political events, no weather-related events, and no real market problems, there is absolutely no reason for these kinds of spikes in gas prices. Our families, our state, and national economy cannot afford this market manipulation.”

The facts, that market forces drive prices and profits are the result of spending discipline relative to revenue, will not change the minds of elected officials who either sincerely believe oil companies have the ability to manipulate retail gasoline prices or who are disingenuously misrepresenting reality to the public in an attempt to grab extra cash with the power of taxation. The Republicans need to counter propaganda with propaganda and demand the Democrats act in a manner consistent with their rhetoric.

If oil companies are exploiting the citizens of Wisconsin for profit and these profits are ill gained monies, then it is time to require the State of Wisconsin Investment Board divest themselves of all oil company stocks. If oil companies are engaged in business practices detrimental to the citizens of Wisconsin then the state has a moral duty to several all ties with these companies. Governor Doyle – divest the oil companies now!